Monday, 19 January 2015

Sweet Calamine

Here's a tip for anyone who has a stoma, and finds that they get red and itchy skin around the stoma area.                                           
Here's my ileostomy. It's double barrelled,
and reminds me of the 'yin yan' symbol.

I had this problem, that was partly solved by using 'stomahesive' paste around the edge of my stoma, so that the fluids in my bag stopped getting directly onto my skin.

I still found however that just the presence of a bag on top of my skin 24 hours a day was causing it to get irritated; both the area it was on top of, and also skin nearby.

I also found that my bag wasn't sticking that well. It would leave gaps that made me feel insecure about whether I'd end up getting a leak.

I found some advice on one of the facebook pages I link to in my post 'Ostomy Advice and Resources' which I thought I would give a go.

What I did was first to shower with my bag off. This is a great feeling. You can get your stoma and the area around it really clean using wipes provided by your ostomy supplier. It's great to get some fresh air to the area around the stoma too. I'm sure it does it good. Obviously the key to showering is to have everything ready to hand, time spent getting out all your potions and powders, wipes and bags beforehand and putting them in their places is time well spent.

When I'm washing in the shower, I don't use strong perfumed soaps or sprays near my stoma. I gain confidence from the thought that this is actually my intestine, that's been turned inside out and brought to the surface. When I think about some of the potent curries I've eaten and which all travelled down this tube, I realise it's made of pretty resilient stuff. Nifty work with wipes ensures that if my stoma starts working, I catch anything that it kicks out!

I dry the stoma and the area around it with more wipes. Then I use calamine lotion. This is the same stuff you use when you have sunburn or chickenpox to soothe and protect your skin. It's cheap, and available in any pharmacy.I use it much more thinly than I would with sunburn or chickenpox. I spread it around the area where my bag is going to stick to.

If I'm not showering and just changing my bag, some calamine on the end of a wipe is a great cleaning fluid too, getting rid of any leftover adhesive. It's slightly astringent and soothes any redness, it creates a barrier over the skin that protects it from further damage, and when it dries it's slightly powdery, creating a great surface for the bag to stick to. I find that the bag sticks much better on skin that's been treated with calamine lotion, and that it doesn't gap. Combined with stomahesive around the edge of my stoma, I find I have a good barrier and a great seal that lasts much longer than other methods I've tried, and really feels more secure and less itchy.

If I'm in a good mood, while I'm cleaning myself and applying my new bag, I'll sing "Sweet Calamine" to the tune by Neil Diamond.

If I'm feeling compassionate, I make sure that there's no one else in the house beforehand.